12.10.2010

As Tunis slumbers in the wee hours of a crisp Saturday morning...

I observe Tunis through my thin veil this morning. I am cloaked behind my exquisite Indian silk curtains that have traveled with me from Maui to share in my Tunis-vision. My soul achingly smiles reflecting on this, these curtains the colors of saffron & raspberry. The sunlight reflecting off these warm hues conjures up memories of a delicious Indian curry brought into my bedroom to wake up to. If only I could taste colors...

From this vantage point, safe behind my diaphanous shroud & able to quietly & mysteriously take on the scenery in anonymity, I understand the desire to cover up. I look down onto a now familiar scene: the men of Cafe Ammi sweeping the restaurant in the early dawn hours and ever so disruptively moving their chairs & tables about.

The weather is turning, yet again. November started out crisp & chilly. My skin was the first to notice. It is a lot more work over here to keep moisture in the skin. It still feels strange to not jump in the ocean, say... 5 times a week. I believe it will always feel strange- no matter where I am.

A brief respite came last week with balmy temperatures going into the 70's. What a joy! Of course, it was still ice cold inside my flat. Must be the high ceilings & marble in the building. As December settled in, it brought me a new adventure: the hamman. I asked my friend Jihene if we could go to the hammam and she was happy to oblige. So we set off to Ariana heading for Hammam Jasmine- an exquisitely purple exterior where, once inside, was in the fashion of the Roman hammans (I am told). For 7TD (Tunisian Dinar) I luxuriated in the varying degrees of steamy rooms with all the other women happy to have an evening to themselves and relax. Of all the images that come to mind from the evening, here is a condensed version for you all: the steam itself provided another diaphanous haze that we cloaked ourselves within. From this haze I could hear some women singing Arabic songs that hauntingly settled into my being. The smell of Tangerines wafted through the air. And then the sweet nectar of relief the juice provided traveling down my throat. I was satiated to my very core, and my soul singing while my body/skin was being polished.

There were also some proud moments shared amongst us women that evening. When one goes into the hammam one brings their own scrubbing mitt (a Kese in Turkish, but I don't know the word for it in Arabic) along with all other cleansing necessities. When it is your turn to get scrubbed down by one of the staff, you bring along your Kese. Now, of course, I am the only haole (an 'affectionate' Hawaiian term to mean 'foreigner') in the hammam so all eyes are on the Yabanci (Turkish for 'foreigner'). She looked at my Kese & started scrubbing me & asked my friends where I got my scrubbing mitt. As Jihene & Jasmine translated for me, I proudly exclaimed that I got it in Istanbul when I lived there. Apparently they are different than in Tunisia so my Kese was a sort of stepping stone into the cloaked society of hammam culture. I felt this to be a great first meeting!

In other news, I'm really enjoying teaching this term. I feel comfortable being myself with all my students. I feel like they all get to see a lot of who I am. My first term brought some trepidation in that I wasn't really sure how much of myself to show through, in addition to teaching English. For those of you who know me, really know me, you all realize I am not the typical... personality type shall I say? Haha! So of course I was a bit unsure how to present myself. I quickly realized I cannot hide who I am. Who my students are though, they are all individuals with a desire to improve their English and take the time after a full day of working, or a full day of school at university, to come to English classes and study some more. My Tuesday/Thursday night classes have the added bonus of a 15-minute break (a 2 hour 40 minute class) where everybody goes outside and gets a coffee and/or smokes and chats. At first I usually go up to the groups of teachers where we all chat about our classes, or plans for later in the evening, but I usually end up back at one of my students' groups, or see old students from the previous term. It is these endearing moments when we are chatting, and they get to practice their English outside of the classroom and just ask me questions in a relaxed setting, that I really beam with delight on my choices in life.

I suppose I could continue to go on and on with my rambling thoughts giving energy to my fingers furiously typing and transmuting them onto my computer screen, but Tunis has now awoken and the sun rises above a chilly morning as the weather, yet again, turns back in degrees down to the mid 50's... So I must arise now as I have morning chores. Most importantly I need to go holoholo (walking) with Claire to the local police station and pick up our permanent Carte de Sejour (residency permit). Afterwards I believe Bridgit will call as I exclaimed to her in the teacher's room yesterday that one of my favorite fripes (used clothing stores) has winter coats to die for. Oh yes, one final memory for you all for the week. As I came back empty-handed from the police station yesterday in between classes ("Oh my big boss not here today, you must come back tomorrow to pick it up." Mind you all, this is after 5 weeks of them having time to sign off the papers... So I ask, "What time tomorrow?"  "In the morning."  I ask (because I know how these things go here), "What time in the morning?" "10, oh yes, and bring 10TD, or I can take your passport now and have it ready for you in the morning."  Me, "No, I think I will keep my passport and bring it back tomorrow morning."   Yikes the bureaucracy here...

Picture of the week: